29 Sep 2008

Anti-Peripheral Propaganda

A blog opposing the Peripheral Canal is written by a guy who opposed it in 1982. Although I support the PC ("this time is different") and see many errors of fact in the initial post, I did get interested in this bit:
Today, the MWD and the Westlands Water District are busy buying up land around the Sacramento River at the Yolo Bypass, just above Sacramento. Officials of the two water districts say it is to protect their access to water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They are also seeking to partnership with other landowners in the area. Although they are not buying on the sly, it is definitely 1913 water war déjà vu.
The blogger is implying that MWD and WWD are buying land to get water rights (a là LA's pre-1913 purchases in Owens Valley, which he mischaracterizes). When I covered WWD's purchase of Northern California wetlands, I had no such impression, so I'd be interested to hear what you all think.

Bottom Line: Land without water is useless, so moving water to/from land is controversial.


  1. I don't know if it's exactly the Owens Valley all over again, but when huge (and sophisticated, and calculating, these guys are no babes in the woods) southern water agencies start buying up land in water-rich areas, you definitely want to cock an eyebrow.

    Hard to say what McCormick Ranch (the WWD purchase in Yolo County) is for. A smelt breeding program, they say. And it may have a habitat value, beyond that, since WWD is currently trying to get the BDCP approved and it will involve in-Delta mitigation for which this parcel might be useful. I hear it has marginal water rights, but I'm not sure if that is true.

    Anyway, the political leaders in Yolo County are a bit worried. When an out-of-county special district buys up land in-County, a bit of authority is lost since public agencies generally have to stay hands-off of each other. And the concern about water resources flowing south is probably valid, if you learned nothing else about the Owens Valley story.

    On the other hand, under the free market principles you've articulated, you're not so worries about the fallowing of the north, are you? Or, would you support a free market in water that required mitigation to offset third-party impacts - e.g., the dessication of the northern landscape? If the latter, it would seem to be a pretty large qualifier on "free" markets in water, because I don't see any way how you could - on the large scale, over time - keep the northern landscape the same if you're moving large volumes of water to the south.

  2. The trouble is that we do not have clear water rights. If WWD can export water underlying "their" land, that may cause local harm. If rights were clear (gwater adjudication), then I'd let "free" markets roll. (Note that I always favor limiting initial exports until the aquifer situation can be assessed...)

  3. Anyone who believes that taking more water from the Sacramento River--by any means and at any time--will cure the Delta problem does not understand water usage.
    It will cause more salt water intrusion into the Delta. Plain, pure and simple.

  4. To find out more about the purchase of Yolo county wetlands, go to www.sacbee.com and search their archives. Two articles have been filed on this subject. Interestingly enough, they are very straight-forward about their intentions, seeing the purchase a a protect for the future.


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